Dispatch from the Chicago Drupal4Lib BoF

By Daniel A. Freeman |

Hot on the heels of Cindi's outstanding coverage of the Darien Library's Drupal Unconference, I had the chance to attend a smaller, in-person Drupal event of my own. The Chicago Drupal4Lib BoF, hosted by librarian and all-around Drupal enthusiast Leo Klein, included over twenty participants and took place in an instruction room in the library at DePaul University's downtown campus right here in Chicago.

According to Leo, the event was:

...an opportunity for librarians to get together and discuss how they use (or would like to use) Drupal in a library context. We'll ask people to present projects they're working on and we'll field questions on problems and approaches to implementing Drupal.

True to form, the event was informal, open and was a great forum for discussion. Participants came from a variety of locations, all within the Chicago metro area. While attending, I couldn't help but think of Cindi's description of Darien's Drupal Camp as an incredibly "human" conference, and how the same applied at this event. As participants introduced themselves, not one person described themselves as an "expert" on Drupal. The majority of attendees had never actively used Drupal, and were there because they were curious about what it might be able to do for them. People wanted help--they wanted discussion, and they wanted others to know what they didn't know as much as what they did.

The meat of the event was the sharing and discussion, where participants gave demonstrations of successful Drupal projects. Participants discussed how they had become interested in Drupal, more often than not their explanations involved dissatisfaction with a proprietary CMS. If there was one common theme that came up during these discussions, it was that Drupal helped people save money.

A librarian from the Prairie Area Library System, a consortium that covers a wide area of northern Illinois, explained how he was able to use Drupal to create sitebuilder module that has allowed dozens of libraries in the consortium to create web pages based on a template. These libraries, mostly small, public facilities with no IT staff, are now able to easily design and maintain customizable, highly functional web sites using an open-source CMS.  They have paid no money to web developers, graphic designers or other IT professionals for these web pages.

We've had some discussion on this blog about Drupal's learning curve, a topic that definitely came up during the event. One participant, before giving a demonstration of his Drupal project, explained, "I am not an IT person...I'm an adult-services librarian."  Many of the Drupal-curious participants were encouraged to hear that the librarians who had successfully used Drupal to help implement major projects started out with the same technical knowledge that they currently had. 

This was an open forum, and it had the ultimate effect of increasing curiosity and making it more likely that the curious would take that extra step toward actually downloading and trying to learn to use Drupal. While this may have been a small event, as Leo pointed out, there are small events like this popping up all over the country. If these trends continue, the Drupal Library revolution may already have begun.

Leo's photos from the event are available here.